Tuesday, November 28, 2023

TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. What a nightmare: Amazon Prime Video in South Africa couldn't bother with any proper publicity for In Your Dreams. Why?

by Thinus Ferreira

If you don't know about the existence of the new South African filmed fantasy drama series In Your Dreams on Amazon Prime Video, whether it's good, worth your time watching, worth your money paying or subscribing to Amazon Prime Video, don't know what it's about, how it was created or are clueless about anything around it, you're not alone.

And it's not your fault. 

Blame the clearly disinterested Amazon Studios team in South Africa making content they apparently don't really feel you need to see or have put any real effort in in promoting, as well as Amazon Prime Video's shoulder-shrugging level of publicity.

The fantasy drama series produced by Motion Story was released last week on 24 November but Amazon Studios and Amazon Prime Video - although a South African production - did basically little more than nothing to get media buy-in and to promote it under the South African press beforehand.

Either In Your Dreams is terribly bad with horrible production values (we don't know since nobody has actually watched it, given the absence of comprehensive reviews), with no digital screeners made available to the media (despite asking).

Or, Amazon Prime Video doesn't see the need or know how to promote a local production properly when it comes to PR. 

Amazon Studios and Amazon Prime Video couldn't be bothered to tell the media that In Your Dreams was commissioned when it was (likely in 2022 or early in 2023), or that filming had started when it did.

In mid-October, Ten x Collective, the PR agency currently repping Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Studios in South Africa, sent out the first of what was eventually just two press releases, to suddenly "announce" the existence of In Your Dreams.

By mid-October, In Your Dreams had already been filmed and production completed. 

By the way, In Your Dreams is also Amazon's "first South African scripted series". Yes. It's first - but there's a clear lack of excitement about this so-called "first scripted series". No buzz, no set visits while it was filming, no liaising and asking media if they're interested in doing interviews while the show was actually being made. Just nothing. 

Amazon, right off the bat, treated In Your Dreams in terms of PR as some already-discarded, trashily-made TV, not worth media attention, and signalled that through what I can only call lukewarm media interaction.

A month later in mid-November - literally just four days before the debut of In Your Dreams - suddenly there was an email blast on 20 November (as the second and last press release) which noted that In Your Dreams would be making its debut on 24 November. 

This is simply not how proper publicity for a TV show or any TV show works, or is supposed to work.

Four days for the media to now ... what? Scramble for interviews? Scramble to try and find time to request screeners and to try and watch it, or trying to find out what might be happening with a show in terms of access, interviews and whatever else?

Although with basically no time left, I asked Ten x Collective if digital screeners would be available in order to watch and review In Your Dreams. (I was told it would be requested, but nothing came of it at all and it never happened. As of yet - and now too late - I haven't seen anything of this show.)

I also asked (why do I have to ask?) Ten x Collective if there would be any media engagement happening? Why must media ask? 

Any publicity effort of any TV show worth its salt and value with be responsive and upfront and reach out to media before they have to ask, to explain exactly what will be happening around a show - especially a South African production - and go through what is available, or happening, and ask media whether they want to partake in something, want to do a set visit, or are interested in roundtable or one-on-one interviews or whatever else opportunities might exist.

With In Your Dreams - just like the atrociously badly done "media launch" of Amazon Prime Video's Nigerian nonsense around Gangs of Lagos - Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Studios in Africa utterly failed in my opinion to do an acceptable level of standard PR for a TV show that was made in South Africa and to involve the media.

Last week Wednesday or Thursday night (who knows?) Amazon Prime Video held a "screening" or "event" (who knows what it's called or should properly be called) in (Johannesburg?) for In Your Dreams for (who knows? influencers?) with the In Your Dreams cast.

Were there any photos for the media (who were not invited or told about it beforehand) or sent automatically to media of what happened there? Nope. 

Were there any transcripts or recordings of what was said there by the cast or the producers which could be used for possible stories and reporting and coverage? Again, nope.

No In Your Dreams press drop. No series of press releases right from commission to launch to fully tell its making-of story. No phone calls. No emails to gauge potential interest from the media. No episodic pics or episode synopses.

What is this utter mess? Why again so bad? Why the disrespect for a South African-made show and Amazon's purported "first South African scripted show"? 

This is definitely not just an Amazon problem but in my opinion Amazon is clearly part of the broader problem when it comes to proper TV show PR for South African shows.

Amazon can pay for and have advertising banners up at all of South Africa's major airports for Amazon Prime Video, but if it can't properly communicate and work with the media and engage journalists to help tell the story of its content, it will continue to face a big uphill battle in getting consumers and potential consumers and TV viewers to engage with, and to watch its content offering.

The publicity effort around Amazon's In Your Dreams in South Africa is disrespectful and simply not good enough, or fails to understand the needs of the press, or to ask the needs of the press, and to provide a sufficient standardised response to that which yields a win-win for Amazon, the show and the media. 

I feel bad for the In Your Dreams cast, crew and production company who all deserved much - much! - better than this pathetic and poorly done publicity attempt.  

Disney+ has lost 14 million subscribers in a year.

by Thinus Ferreira 

Disney boss Bob Iger and his top management team have their work cut out for them in 2014 following the box office flops of Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny, The Marvels and now Wish and with its video streaming service Disney+ that has a whopping 14 million subscribers less than last year.

Although Disney+ returned to growth in the fourth quarter of the company's fiscal year, the subscriber count of the streaming giant is still far below where it was just a year ago. 

According to data presented by OnlyAccounts.io, Disney+ had 150.2 million subscribers in the fourth quarter of the company's 2023 financial year - 14 million less than last year.

Disney+ launched in 2019 and hit 100 million subscribers worldwide two years later. The streamer launched in South Africa in May 2022 where it's competing with the likes of MultiChoice's Showmax getting a retool-relaunch in February 2023, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+.

South Africa is still the only country in sub-Saharan Africa where Disney+ is available.

What was quite impressive about Disney+'s 100 million subs, was that it took the market leader Netflix roughly a decade to reach this milestone, despite navigating a much less competitive market them.

Still, the Covid-19 pandemic played a massive role in Disney reaching its goal so far ahead of schedule, as all streaming giants profited from lockdowns. According to Statista and the official Disney company data, Disney+ had 26.5 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2020.

year later, this figure surged to almost 95 million and continued rising. By the end of its 2022 financial year, Disney's streaming service hit a whopping 164.2 million subscribers, the highest number to date.

But - and there's always a but - things significantly changed this year, with 14 million people cancelling their subscriptions to Disney+.

Most of that drop came from the Indian brand Disney+ Hotstar, which reported massive subscriber losses. In its earnings report for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year which ended 30 September, Disney reported a 2.8 million subscriber drop on its streaming platform Disney+ Hotstar, pushing the total subscriber loss for the year to 23.8 million.

Disney's loss of subscribers in the Indian market is likely due to the streaming service losing the rights to the Indian Premier League and the non-renewal of its content deal with HBO.

And while the streaming giant lost 14 million subscribers, its average monthly revenue per user (ARPU) increased this year - which is a good thing.

In the fourth quarter of 2023, Disney+ Core generated an average monthly revenue of $6.7 (R125.29) per paying subscriber, up from the $6.47 (R121) reported in the second quarter. 

Disney+ Hotstar's average revenue per subscriber increased from $0.59 to $0.70 in this period due to a lower mix of wholesale subscribers and higher advertising revenue.

Monday, November 27, 2023

South Africa's public broadcaster appoints Nomsa Chabeli as new SABC CEO.

by Thinus Ferreira

The struggling South African public broadcaster has appointed Nomsa Chabeli as new SABC CEO from March 2024.

The executive who formerly worked at MTN, MultiChoice, SABC, Brand South Africa, Edcon and the South African government's GCIS, in a statement, says "I am truly honoured and excited to join the SABC as its new CEO".

Nomsa Chabeli has an MBA from the Henley Business school and is currently busy with her masters in digital business at the Wits Business School.

"This organisation holds a rich legacy of public service through broadcasting and I am committed to advancing its mission and intensifying efforts to significantly improve revenue generation and lay the foundation for enduring success."

"Faced with the challenges of a rapidly evolving digital landscape, together we will embrace innovation, foster meaningful connections and ensure that our content continues to inspire, inform and resonate with diverse audiences in this dynamic landscape".

The SABC says "the SABC board of directors has confidence in Nomsa Chabeli's ability to drive revenue generation, strategic growth, innovation and uphold the values that have defined the SABC's legacy".

"In this pivotal role, Nomsa Chabeli will spearhead the strategic vision and operational excellence across the entire SABC group. This appointment reflects the SABC's commitment to maintaining excellence in broadcasting and meeting the evolving needs of its diverse audience."

"The SABC extends its warmest welcome to Nomsa Chebeli and the entire organisation looks forward to achieving new milestones under her leadership".

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Afreximbank launches new $1 billion film fund for African filmmakers.

by Thinus Ferreira

CAIRO, EGYPT - Afreximbank is starting a new $1 billion African film fund to support the continent's filmmakers.

At the 2023 Creative Africa Nexus (Canex) Summit taking place in Cairo, Egypt, Kanayo Awani, vice-president of Afreximbank's Intra-Africa Trade Bank, announced that the massive $1 billion investment would go to support filmmakers across the entire Africa.

The 2023 Canex Summit, an Afreximbank initiative, is taking place alongside the weeklong IATF 2023 which is Africa's largest trade and investment fair.

The Afreximbank film fund that will officially be launched in 2024 will be used for film financing, co-financing with large studios, and supporting projects of African filmmakers, producers and directors across the entire continent.

Afreximbank already has $600 million (R10.9 billion) invested in various film, music, fashion, arts and sports projects across Africa.

Referencing Africa's three biggest TV and film production markets in West, South and East Africa, she noted that "Afreximbank has several films in the pipeline from Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya which should be on streaming platforms in 2024".

According to Awani, Africa's film and TV industry is held back by infrastructure and technology gaps, a lack of capacity and a shortage of skilled professionals, coupled with limited market access and international exposure - something that leads to Africa's creative and cultural products often struggling to gain exposure and access to international markets.

She said that Africa's film industry has the potential to create over 20 million jobs but is being held back due to limited access to financing, copyright infringement due to weak copyright laws and enforcement mechanisms, and a lack of awareness.

The Ghanaian actor Boris Kodjoe said Africa is still facing "branding challenges" due to an international perception about Africa, fuelled by traditional media, that the continent is poverty, famine and civil wars.

According to Kodjoe, "The world craves culturally specific global content with Africa as a key player in meeting that demand. With the continent's young population and high connectivity, studios, networks, promoters and brands are investing in solutions to reach diverse audiences".

By 2030, Africa is projected to produce up to 10% of global creative goods export worth roughly $200 billion (R3.6 trillion), or 4% of Africa's gross domestic product (GDP).

Albert M. Muchanga, commissioner for trade and industry of the African Union Commission, said that the creative sector in Africa was rapidly growing and making a significant contribution to the growth and sustainable development of African economies.

African creative industry has huge potential to be a source of employment and revenue to create the Africa we want – revenue from intra-African trade as well as revenue from the rest of the world."

Saturday, November 4, 2023

MultiChoice digital boss Vincent Maher the next executive to exit.

by Thinus Ferreira

Vincent Maher who was group executive for digital is the latest MultiChoice executive to exit the Randburg-based pay-TV operator without so much as a word from MultiChoice to the industry that he left.

The only indication that MultiChoice's group executive for digital had left was an entry on Vincent Maher's own LinkedIn page confirming that 27 October 2023 was "my last day at MultiChoice Group".

Vincent Maher's exit comes after five years with MultiChoice which he joined in November 2018.

MultiChoice battles the bleeding of an ongoing outflow of experienced top executives exiting for greener pastures and especially getting poached by global video streaming services like Disney+, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Studios setting up shop in South Africa and Nigeria.

At MultiChoice Vincent Maher was appointed as group executive for digital at MultiChoice in August 2021 - he was barely in the role for two years before his exit at the end of October.

No word from MultiChoice on Vincent Maher's replacement, with MultiChoice saying - only after Vincent Maher's exit became known - that "in line with our ongoing commitment to operational excellence and resource optimisation, we have reorganised some of our structures, and the group digital function now reports to Yatish Narsi, chief marketing officer for MultiChoice South Africa".

Paramount's Nickelodeon splats back with latest on-air rebrand and flips to high-definition on DStv.

by Thinus Ferreira

It took several days and multiple media queries without any responses from any of Paramount Africa's PR companies trying to get something but on Friday afternoon Paramount finally sent a press release to confirm the on-air rebrand of its Nickelodeon (DStv 305) TV channel that also became a HD TV channel on 1 November on MultiChoice's DStv.

Days ago, before the November rebrand and HD flip came into effect, TVwithThinus made media queries to two of Paramount Africa's PR agencies used in South Africa, asking and asking again, without any help.

On Friday afternoon, Natalie Mdladla, senior director of communications at Paramount Africa, sent a press release about the Nickelodeon rebrand which happened a few days ago.

According to Paramount Africa, the updated brand identity is a throwback to the channel's "irreverent history".

"It includes a reimagined Splat logo, but with a modern feel for today's kids and families. The rebrand is live on Nickelodeon and will be launching on Nick Jnr from November and on NickToons in 2024," the company says in the statement.

According to Paramount Africa, "The new brand identity positions the brand Nickelodeon and its re-imagined splat as the ultimate portal to fun - a gateway to surprising experiences Nick kids of all ages will love. This new take on the brand's classic look and feel demonstrates for kids just what can happen when you enter the splat with Nickelodeon".

Nickelodeon also moved from a standard definition to a high definition (HD) channel on MultiChoice's TV channel line-up.

"For us at Nickelodeon, the reimagined splat logo brings our mission of making the world a more playful place come to life," says Dillon Khan, vice president for Nickelodeon in Africa, in a prepared quote in the press release.

"We hope that kids and their families across the continent will enter the portal of fun and enjoy the new and exciting content we have in store." 

Nickelodeon is known for its slime as well as iconic programming and characters ranging from SpongeBob SquarePants, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and PAW Patrol to Blue's Clues, Baby Shark, Dora the Explorer, The Loud House and Monster High.

DiepCity actress and comedian Lebohang Mpyana dead at 34 after 'short illness'.

by Thinus Ferreira

The comedian and DiepCity actress Lebohang Mpyana has died after a short illness. She was 34.

The cause of death of Lebohang Mpyana, known as Lettie, isn't yet known but family spokesperson T. Mpyana in a statement on social media said that "It is with great sadness to announce the passing of our daughter, Lebohang Mpyana".  

Lebo died after a short illness".

Born in Limpopo, the comedian portrayed the role of Khelina in the drama series DiepCity on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) and was known for her comedy videos on social media she did in her Sepedi home language.

Prior to her DiepCity role, Lebohang Pmyana also appeared in Mathata Ke Eng on Moja Love (DStv 157).

Moja Love cuts legal aid to murder-accused Xolani Khumalo as his foundation got ‘enriched by proceeds of crime’.

by Thinus Ferreira

After finally distancing itself on Friday from its now-notorious former vigilante justice TV presenter Xolani Khumalo who stands accused of murder and cutting off its legal aid to him, the South African tabloid television channel Moja Love (DStv 157) late on Friday night said Sizok'thola isn't cancelled but will get a new presenter while alluding that Khumalo's foundation with unknown beneficiaries allegedly benefitted from "the proceeds of crime".

After firing him, Moja Love will now no longer pay for legal support for Xolani Khumalo in his alleged torture and murder case. 

Sizok'thola is however not cancelled, with the show becoming the latest on Moja Love's schedule line-up which will be undergoing a presenter change following a real-life scandal, while the production gets retooled to "strengthen its procedures".

The latest controversy engulfing Moja Love stems from the death of an alleged drug dealer who died during the filming of an episode of Sizok'thola in Katlehong in July.

The Siyaya TV-run channel - notorious for tabloid local programming that constantly pushes the edge but that results in massive South African TV ratings - found viewership success with Sizok'thola fronted by Xolani Khumalo who became a television hero until the alleged TV torture and murder revelations shocked Moja Love executives and the viewing public. 

Xolani Khumalo is accused of murder and will appear in court in 2024 over allegations that he and a vigilante gang involved in the production of Sizok'thola tortured the man to death to elicit confessions of guilt for the show, that hunts alleged drug dealers and corrupt community citizens.

Xolani Khumalo couldn't be reached late on Friday night following Moja Love's statement but comment will be added here when received.

After saying on Friday afternoon that Moja Love had decided to dump Khumalo and will no longer work or support him - meaning that Moja Love will no longer be on his side in his upcoming murder case - Moja Love on Friday night said that it decided to split with the controversial presenter "after raising concerns and questioning him about his knowledge and involvement in the unlawful incidents that led to the possible contamination of crime scenes, failed prosecutions of known drug lords and unfortunate tragedies that followed the filming of certain episodes".

Moja Love spokesperson Nonzwakazi Cekete says the channel also demanded answers regarding the identities of the beneficiaries of his Xolani Khumalo Foundation which he launched off the back of
Sizok'thola's success "despite the blatant conflict of interest it created between him and the show".

"Moja Love has always been cautious to ensure that it abides by the strict letter of the law. To this end, the channel continues to work closely with the South African Police Service to ensure that no person enriches themselves from the proceeds of crimes which are perpetuated by greedy individuals masquerading as non-profit organisations."

Moja Love says it became clear that the channel's relationship with Xolani Khumalo "had permanently broken down when he could not provide the channel with satisfactory answers to its questions and
when further information, which the channel is not at liberty to disclose at this stage, came to light".

"The channel had been providing legal and financial support to Xolani Khumalo prior to the termination and it will continue to foster an environment of integrity, trust and respect," Moja Love says.

"Xolani Khumalo's claims that he was not formally informed of the termination are false and untruthful. He was duly informed by the channel's management but failed to respond. As a channel, we cannot turn a blind eye to reports of injuries or death during filming of any of our shows and we eagerly await the outcome of the legal case that is currently in court."

According to Moja Love, the channel "has decided not to comment any further on sensitive issues in order to have due respect to culture and to show respect to the families of those who may have been affected as we wait for the law to take its course."

"Moja Love remains steadfast in wanting to create content like Sizok'thola in order to rid our society of drug dealers roaming the streets and killing the future of our country," the TV channel says.

Moja Love says that Sizok'thola "has not been cancelled but has been paused so that the channel can strengthen its procedures and authority to avoid any further unfortunate incidents or loss of lives".

Thursday, November 2, 2023

MultiChoice Nigeria does another 20% DStv and GOtv price hike - the 3rd price increase this year - from 6 November 2023 as it 'acknowledges the difficult economic climate'.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice Nigeria is once again hiking prices of DStv and GOtv subscribers from 6 November, the third shockingly high price hike this year in the West African country after the last extreme increase of up to 22% in monthly subscriber fees that was done in May.

DStv Nigeria sent SMS messages to subscribers' phones and also did an on-screen message through decoders to tell them that it's hiking fees just six months after the last increase in May. 

The new pricing will come into effect from 6 November 2023.

MultiChoice didn't give its customers in Nigeria any reason or explanation for the price hike and only said "MultiChoice acknowledges the difficult economic climate".

DStv Nigeria told subscribers to "please note the following price adjustment".

From 6 November DStv Premium is hiked by 20.4% from N24500 to N29500, while DStv Compact Plus is increased cc% from N16600 to N19800.

DStv Compact is increased 20.4% from N10500 to N12500, while DStv Confam is increased 19.3% from N6200 to N7400. 

DStv Supa is increased to N7600, DStv Max is increased to N5700, DStv Jolli is hiked to N3950, while DStv Jinga is increased to N2700. 

DStv Yanga is getting a 20% price hike from N3500 to N4200.

MultiChoice Nigeria is also hiking the prices of all of the DStv GOtv packages in Nigeria.